Would you watch 'Law & Order: SVU' without Mariska Hargitay? (What if Jennifer Love Hewitt replaced her?)

Hewitt-Hargitay

Image Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.com; Will Hart/ NBC

With Law & Order: Los Angeles officially rebooted into oblivion and Law & Order: Criminal Intent halfway through its final season, we are fast approaching a cultural moment that once seemed unthinkable: a TV landscape with only one Law & Order series still in production. But Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has always been the impervious panzer tank of the franchise; while its brethren vacillated through various cast changes, the SVU team has essentially held steady since the show debuted in 1999. (There were more cast shake-ups in one miserable season of LOLA than in over a decade of SVU.)

Not even the SVU juggernaut is immune to the ravages of time, though, and it looks like series star Mariska Hargitay will be stepping back from the series in its upcoming 13th season. Apparently the actress (who recently adopted a baby) had asked for a lighter work-week. In a conference call with reporters on Sunday, NBC President Robert Greenblatt explained that, to make up for less Hargitay, “There is going to be another detective coming in halfway through the season.” Greenblatt admitted that Hargitay’s future with the show was a bit unclear — she’s only contracted through the next season — so it’s entirely possible this new detective could be a stealth replacement.* And rumors are currently swirling around one name in particular to step into SVU: Jennifer Love Hewitt, who guest-starred on the show earlier this year as a rape victim.

Greenblatt simply noted that Hewitt “is someone we’ve been circling. I don’t know that’s coming to pass or not.” Reps for Hargitay did not respond to calls for comment, while a representative for Hewitt told EW, “There have been discussions with SVU, but there is no deal in place, nor are there any negotiations ongoing at this time.” Still, the mere fact that there have been discussions is certainly notable. Unlike the other shows in the L&O franchise, much of the appeal of SVU rests in its two leads. Heck, when you think about it, even earlier iterations of L&O weren’t exactly cast-proof; the Mothership never really recovered from the loss of Jerry Orbach, and Criminal Intent didn’t win much approval when it implemented the Goldblum Solution (although I kinda dug it).

Would Hargitay be replaceable? And, perhaps more to the point, could she be replaced by someone completely different, like Jennifer Love Hewitt? Putting aside the inherent weirdness of imagining the ’90s teen idol in the monochromatic Law & Order universe, Hewitt did work steadily on a procedural for five seasons. But that procedural was Ghost Whisperer, which had a tone that was pretty far removed from SVU‘s gonzo-apocalyptic vibe. PopWatchers, would you want to see someone like Hewitt swoop into SVU? Or would the show die for you without Benson?

*Fun bonus for L&O fans: When Greenblatt was asked about the possibility of a new Law & Order series, the NBC prez indicated that nothing was currently being planned. “Anything’s possible if the right idea comes through the door,” he said, sounding very much like a man who just ordered a new deadbolt.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Comments (287 total) Add your comment
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  • Jacob L

    Jennifer Beals.

    • sherimoonzombie

      Hey, that’s not bad. She was really impressive on Chicago Code – which has been canceled by those idiots at Fox.

    • maggie

      Very good idea!

    • cassidy

      yeah i like that idea! i think if Marishka leaves and Chris stays, JB would be a great partner for Stabler.

    • Ace

      MUCH better choice!

    • Lee

      Another vote for Jennifer Beals.

    • natacha

      I agree with jacob jennifer beals would be great. she is excellent in chicago code; I don’t know why those idiots at fox is cancelling the show, they should of giving it another season to see what happened

    • Lisa Watson

      Not a chance in hell!!! No Mariska No SVU!

      • kdy

        my feelings, exactly!

      • soso

        No way in hell!!!!with them both gone,i will not watch SVU!!

      • pam

        NO Mariska, no Chris, no watch!!

    • KCar

      Genius. I’d actually watch that. Jennifer Beals is amazing. Love-Hewitt? No way.

    • kim m

      yes….JB would be a great choice

      • kim p

        the only thing i can see is if they do get jennifer beals and maybe another chris meloni type actor to fill the void that will be left by them both leaving munch/fin cannot carry the show like benson/stabler no f***ing way!!!!!!!

    • Lori

      The only reason I wouldn’t watch is if Chris Meloni left. As long as he’s the lead I’ll watch. Hewitt is too light weight. Chris is the hood ornament in this show just like Jerry was in Law & Order.

  • ldm

    hell yeah i would watch if Hewitt was on SVU!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Templar

      I would change the channel as soon as JLH appeared.

      • graci

        I agree, I love Mariska and Chris they are a good team. Uck to jlh

      • chrissy

        I agree, I cant picture JLH as the new detective.

      • A

        Yes, yes, yes. She could not pull off the tough detective character.

      • bob

        i totally agree—JLH would be a disaster—very bad match—-i haven’t missed a show but would definitely stop watching without my wonderful mariska—-the whole thing is a done deal anyway since chris meloni is not coming back—-the show will be canceled

  • erin

    the answer is a resounding hell no. the solution would be to show more episodes with Fin and Munch.

    • joan

      I agree with Erin.

    • Ace

      I’m with you on the “hell no.” I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to Jennifer Love Hewitt.

      • amie

        “Allergic to JLH”…. me too!

    • laylagalise

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

    • Em

      Gotta agree – I think the show has gone on too long (12 seasons!) with the same characters for them to get away with changing the cast fundamentally. Either they work out a way for Mariska to still be the “star” but working fewer hours, or the show is going to tank without her. It might not be fair, but that’s what’ll happen.

      The only solution I can see is more Munch/Fin and getting either Stephanie March or Diane Neale back as ADA – they were great, well-loved female character who could fill the void of less Benson.

    • Rain

      AGREED! They don’t get nearly enough time.

    • Lisar

      Fin and Munch are ok, but compared to Olivia and Elliot they bore me to tears.

      • JJ

        Olivia and Elliot Are two peas in a pod..

  • Dianr

    Psychic detective in the svu

  • Daisy

    Jennifer Hewitt has proved herself with the success of Ghost Whisperer. I have no doubts that she could pull this off. I’m hoping she’s the final choice.

    • Captain

      Agreed. I actually like the idea of her being on the show and I think it could be good. Yes, it would be a great change and Olivia is a staple for the show but if SHE wants to leave, that’s her choice. You can’t blame the show for that. I wouldn’t want them to bring in Olivia 2.0, I’d want someone completely different so its not a direct replacement. Like Kirstie Alley in Cheers.

  • John

    I love Jennifer Love Hewitt, so I might actually watch the show.

    • cattyfan

      Jennifer Love Hewitt would ensure I would never watch the show again.

      I WOULD, however, enjoy it if Munch and Finn were featured more often.

      • joan

        Agreed.

      • Becky

        I’m with you

  • Lia

    I’ve tolerated ‘filler’ detectives when one of them needed a break, and I will continue to. But no Mariska, no show. Period. Elliot and Olivia are the staples and they need to stay (along with Finn and Munch). They’ve yet to partner Elliot with anyone I could stand other then Olivia. Finn had Adam Beach who I loved but his character is in jail so that’s moot. Love is too…love for this show. Try chasing down a perp in those flitty dresses you insisted on for Ghost Whisperer- um NO.

    • John

      So you’re saying that Mariska has to work on SVU forver and ever and ever just to please you?

      • edeluna

        I say Mariska is 50% of the show. Not sure if I would be very interested in watching the series without her. Don’t think I’d like Hewitt in that role as a permanent replacement.

      • Eolra

        Yup. Forever and ever and ever and ever. We’re a tough crowd, but hey, nobody said making a hit show was easy…

    • mlb

      Because of the procedural nature of the show, and the fact that they only mildly delve into their personal lives, it makes a big difference who stars in the show. When Warrick was killed and then Grissom left CSI, I gave Laurence Fishburne and the new girl a chance but I hated it. I haven’t watched since. I’d have to see where they went with a new character before I made a final decision, but Hargitay and Meloni are the heart of the show in my opinion.

      • kate B

        I must agree with you, I also quit watching CSI when Grissom left. I can not imagine SVU with Olivia. She is so very good along with her partner Elliot. NO on Love Hewitt.

    • grace kempton

      Thank you said perfectly

  • Coco

    I am not so sure about Jennifer Love Hewitt, why not cross over someone from one the other franchises like Kathyrn Erbe or Annabella Sciorra.

    • California

      Love the idea of Kathryn Erbe! I hadn’t even thought of that.

    • maggie

      Erbe said in a recent interview that it isn’t certain that L&O:CI will end this year. She said she and D’Onofrio want it to continue.

      • lisa

        Now that’s some hopeful news!

    • maybe

      Kathryn Erbe would be great. While they’re at it maybe they can bring in the now unemployed Alana de la Garza to play their prosecutor. Those two could actually get me to start watching this show again.

  • Louise Banks

    I am a faithful watcher of svu,
    without Mariska Hargitay or Meloni
    i will not watch the show.

    • gma

      I totally agree with Louise, mlb, and the others who feel Hargitay and Meloni really make it! I watch them every day! I’d have to find
      another show to watch that have what these two together, have.

    • Mel

      I was a faithful follower of Law & Order, but after Chris left, I cannot watch. Just not the same. Chris and Mariska had that chemistry which made it a hit.

  • Thiago – Brazil

    Sarah Michelle Gellar! She needs to win an Emmy and that’s not happening on The CW….

  • Carol

    I am a loyal law and order svu fan. It will not be the same without Mariska Hargitay. I didn’t care for it when Connie Nielsen was Stabler’s partner for a period of time. Benson, Stabler, Munch, Fin, and the Captain make the show. If Mariska goes, I switch channels.

    • Amy

      @Carol: I totally agree. The entire cast has great chemistry with one another (especially Hargitay/Benson and Meloni/Stabler). I’d prefer the show go out on a high note.

    • Lee

      i would probably hate it, but i think i would watch for little bit w/o her but ONLY if the right actress replaced her. Then again, the current eps never seem to have them both in it together anyway. Arghh!

    • JJ

      Agreed! Olivia is the whole deal, the show isn’t law & order svu without her.

  • sandi

    Marisa Hagarty is one of those people that cannot be replaced.She will be as good a mom as she was a Detective. Will miss her.Sorry, won”t be watching.Not JLHewitt

  • Summer

    I hear Erica Durance is free…

    • maggie

      If you had said her name a couple of years ago I would have thought you were joking. But I must admit that she has improved greatly as an actress. I can see her as a detective on a L&O show.

  • Deborah

    I would definately watch if Jennifer BEALS replaced Mariska but NOT Love Hewitt. I love SUV with Mariska, but I think if she has to be replaced then Beals would make a great replacement.

    • sunshinez2002@yahoo.com

      I agree with you. I believe Jennifer Beals or Taraji Henson would be an excellent choice to replace Mariska. I hope Olivia gets promoted to Captain so she’s on the show every week, just not as much. The article didn’t say she was leaving the show, just that she’ll cutting her hours. That’s expected of a new mom.

      • Lee

        YES (again) on Beals, but I disagree about Henson or Benson as Captain. I would miss Captain Cragen.

      • HGFM

        Once again, Olivia can not be promoted to Captain. The NYPD command structure doesn’t work that way. She hasn’t made to Sergeant yet, let alone Lieutenant.

  • kim in kentucky

    Hell to the NO !!

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